The Seahawks will test the team’s “Next Man Up” philosophy yet again this week.
Seattle will play Sunday against the NFL’s top offense without two of their perennial Pro Bowlers on defense.
Coach Pete Carroll confirmed Wednesday that linebacker K.J. Wright will be out again when Seattle hosts the rival Los Angeles Rams at CenturyLink Field. Wright has yet to play this year following arthroscopic knee surgery in the preseason.
Rookie Shaquem Griffin started at weakside linebacker in his absence against the Broncos in the season opener, but Mychal Kendricks has filled that role since.
Kendricks was suspended Tuesday indefinitely by the NFL after pleading guilty to insider trading, so Seattle will need to find another replacement.
Carroll didn’t say officially who that will be, but both he and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner suggested this to be an opportunity for Austin Calitro, who filled in for Wagner when he missed the team’s second-week matchup in Chicago against the Bears.
“This is a crucial opportunity for us, just as it was when he had to play for Bobby,” Carroll said. “This is one of those opportunities that a guy gets and I’m hoping he’ll do a great job with it. He’s already done well, so we expect him to do fine.”
Wagner is confident in Calitro as well.
“He does it all,” Wagner said. “When he’s out there he’s a very smart player. A guy that I love to play alongside of, so I’m looking forward to it. We have a really good relationship, so the communication I know is going to be there.”
Perhaps more concerning for Seattle against the Rams high-powered offense will be the absence of All Pro safety Earl Thomas, who broke his leg last week in Arizona.
Thomas had three interceptions this season and has a history of making big plays against the Rams, including last year when he forced a fumble against running back Todd Gurley near the goalline that turned into a touchback in Seattle’s 16-10 win in Los Angeles.
The Rams lead the league in total offense and are second in passing this season, averaging 343.2 yards per game.
Carroll said second-year pro Tedric Thompson will likely get the start in place of Thomas and is up for the challenge.
Thompson earned the starting spot in training camp while Thomas held out for a contract extension.
When Thomas came back, Carroll said Thompson adjusted to his backup role well. But the team appreciated his presence so much they found ways to get him on the field, using him as a third safety in recent games alongside Thomas and Bradley McDougald.
“Now that he’s a starter, I’m sure he’s excited about that,” Carroll said. “He’s prepared for this the whole time. … He’s seen a lot. He’s learned a lot. I’m really thinking he’s going to handle this very well.”
Wagner admitted that missing Thomas will be a blow for the defense, but he also said Thompson is ready for the opportunity.
“We were confident going into the season with him, with his ability,” Wagner said. “He’s a very hungry guy. He’s going to come out there and be excited. He knows that people are probably going to be looking at him and I think he’s up for the challenge.”
The Seahawks also signed strong safety Maurice Alexander and free safety T.J. Green on Wednesday to help out.
Carroll said both of them could be on the field Sunday, but it wasn’t clear yet what their roles will be with the team.